tv African American History Conference CSPAN June 3, 2016 8:00pm-10:01pm EDT
specializes in personal injury and consumer bankruptcy. >> darrell castle, who this past week in salt lake city became the constitution party presidential nominee. he is joining us from memphis. his speech, by the way, his acceptance speech is on the website at c-span.org. thank you for being with us. we appreciate it. >> thank you very much for having me. i have enjoyed it. tonight on c-span, a special prime time edition of american history tv which recently covered a conference on african-american history. it was held at the new smithsonian national museum of african-american history which will open on the national mall in september. this part of the conference examined the history of african-american religion. [ applause ] good morning and thank you for joining us on this beautiful
rainy day in washington, d.c. i am honored to be the chair of this panel which attempts to answer the simple, yet in many ways, complex question, what is african-american religion. africans in america, the vast majority, were by law chattel, to be bought and sold, exploited unapologetically and often cast aside once every ounce of value had been extracted. but unlike the livestock that was listed alongside them on the state inventories and at auctions, this peculiar brand of property fought to assert and preserve their humanity, in their relations with each other, in the establishment and operation of their social institutions, and especially in their sacred beliefs. peoples of african descent
adopted a belief system that adopted their ethnicities in the particular circumstances that shaped their lives and labor. time and experiences altered and redefined the beliefs and practices familiar to the ancestors. the descendents of these men and women adopted new ways of looking at the world and their place in it. but like those before them, they embraced religion as a means to challenge as well as cope with the realities of their existence in america. institutionalized religion represented by the black church constituted the core of the african-american community and freedom. it was the center of training for black leadership. the first responder in a time of crisis. the linchpin that connected black people in common cause, including in protest of their
oppression. growing up in ruralal virginia in the 60s, i could scarcely imagine there was any religious experience beyond my own. for me african-american religion was christian-based, male-dominated, men comprised of the leadership and women as the worker bees, as they still are today. it was church centered and emotionally charged. the version i experienced rooted in the southern baptist tradition meant two-hour sunday service, apparently our ministers had never heard the old adage that no souls are saved after the first 60 minutes. there was robust preaching, primarily hell fire and brimstone to be exact. older ladies being overcome with the holy ghost. and music that would inspire godly behavior, at least for a day or two. i had graduated from high school
and enrolled at hampton institute, not hampton university, so you know how long ago that was, before i ever heard of the ame church. methodism was for white folk. so they were 11 churches -- 11 black churches in my county. every single one of them was a baptist church. black hebrews did not exist in my sacred world. nor did perceived alternative groups such as those founded by daddy grace and father devine and elijah muhammed. so you could imagine how far in the back woods i was. if we really didn't have muslim presence there. of course my experience was one of many narratives that helped to define african-american religion. this morning each of our panelists either extends or challenges through traditional narrative. our first panelist is professor
eddie glaude, chair of the department of african-american studies in william s. todd professor of religion and african-american studies at princeton university. his discussion of the category of african-american religion will be followed by judith weisenfeld, the aggette brown and george collar professor at princeton university who will discuss cites and stories of the african-american religious past. the lineup was a little bit different. but we have a panel of very feisty rebels here. and so they've decided that it didn't make a lot of sense to have the order that i had placed them in. and agree with them totally. the lesson there is to always ask your panelists what they think. don't assume that you know. and the third presenter will
be -- professor weisenfeld will talk -- i indicate will talk about sites and sources for the study of african-american religious past and followed by evelyn brooks higgin both ham and james grossman who will address bible politics of the black freedom struggle. and last but certainly not least is anthea butler, and i'm not sure -- is it -- >> anthea is fine. >> from religious studies at the university of pennsylvania. she will discuss african-american religion outside of the black church, rethinking the framework. and so we'll start with professor glaude. [ applause ] >> thank you, sister, edna. welcome to early morning
service. thank you for inviting me to this extraordinary conversation. i've learned a lot. it has been a long time coming to see this happen. and i am delighted in -- and words can't really express. jim, thank you for everything that you do. and thank all of you for being here. so let me just jump into this. i was thinking early this morning, when i got up at some ungodly hour in preparation for this, about lum per and splitters. and i was thinking about the great isaiah berlin's distinction between hedge hogs and foxes. and i tend not to identify myself as either one. i like to take myself to be more
attentive to what hedge hogs and foxes do. what splitters and lum pers take themselves to be up to. so this is what i'm going to try to do today. is that all right? okay. good. so what is african-american religion? an in formative body of literature has been written by the study of religion generally and many concerns evidented in the conversations, debates like whether it is unconscious and the like. it is complicated when we think about religion in tandem with race and it becomes messier when black or african-american described religion. these adjectives bear the burden of a difficult history that colors the way religion is practiced and understood in the united states. they registered the horror of slavery and the terror of jim crow and a captured people for whom sorrow stands alongside joy.
it is in this context, one characterized by the ever present need to account for once presence in the world. in the face of white supremacy that african-american religion takes on such significance. i want to make a distinction between african-american religion and african-american religious life. african-american religious life is not reducible to those wounds, however. where is walter? no, african-american religious life is not reducible to those wounds. that life contains within it in sol is for comfort and answers about who we take ourselves to be and the mysteries of the universe moreover meaning is found -- oh, lord, i got it all backwar backwards. meaning is found for some in sub submission to dog and creed and dog ma in original practice and evil is accountable and hope for some is assured, in short african-american religious life is as rich and as complicated as the religious life of other groups in the united states.
but african-american religion emerges in the encounter between faith and all of its complexity and white supremacy. let me explain what i need. the social context in the united states is a necessary and not sufficient condition of any study of something called african-american religion. if the phrase african-american religion is to have any descriptive usefulness at all, it must signify something more than african-americans who are religious. in fact, african-americans practice a number of different religions. there are people -- black meem who are buddhist, jehovah witness and mormon and bahi. but that african-americans practice the traditions does not lead us, hist orrans and critics as the like to describe it as black buddhism or black moremanism. it singles out something more substantive than that. this something more doesn't have
to be an idea of religion of forces that impinge on the lives of african-american nor does it refer to a definite kind of experience that is itself religious or religious consciousness as distinction of others forms of religiousness. i'm not [ inaudible ]. and the unique status of the category of african-american religion of its own kind. the adjective refers to a racial context within which religious meanings have been produced and reproduced. y'all all right? i just want to check on you. he will defer consideration of how religion has produced particular racial meanings but the history of slavery and racial discrimination birthed religious formations among african-americans. they converted to christianity in the context of slavery and many left predominantly white denominations to perform their own after facing self-determination, some
embraced islam to make sense of their condition in the united states given that history we could reasonably and accurately describe variance of islam as african-american and mean something beyond the rather uninteresting claim that black individuals belong to these different religious traditions. and african-american religious could be understand apart from the social and political context that in some ways called them into being and there are numerous studies that do that. attention to context helps to explain why the scholar has called the potential religious formation african-american religion. in other words, the phrase is the invention of those of us who, with aims and purposes, particular aims and purposes, seek to describe, analyze and theerize the religious african-americans under a particular racial regime. i'm going to do this really quickly, okay. this is what you get for inviting a fill os fear to a history conference. [ laughter ] the words black or african-american work as mercks
of drk markers of difference in my view. as a way of signifying a struggle against white supremacist practices and a repertoire that reflects the unique journey as religious predeuce under unique meanings. it calls up a culture in our effort to understand the religious pract is of a particular people so when i use the phrase african-american religion i'm not referring to something that could be defined substantively apart from the thick practices rather my aim is to orient you the reader in a particular way to the material under consideration to call attention to the social political history that informs the topic at hand and to single out the workings of the human imagination and the spirit under particular conditions. sentences that begin african-american religion is -- or rather a rarely simply descriptionive. what that religion is and ought to be like african-american is
prophetic or it is emotional. but to understand the sentence african-american religion is -- only in this way risks the problem of reafying a particular understanding of black religious practices. denying complexity and ambiguity and contradiction by snatching very practices out of the messiness of history. i like mess. all right. it is much better to understand such utterances as procedures of differentiation and invocation. as a way of saying that you ought to give more attention to this as opposed to that. and a recollection of history that makes the distinction worthwhile. when howard therman the great 20th century black the loathan deemed to proclaim in his midst, he had an expression of christianity it was not the idol of christian doctrine that justified the superiority of
white people and the subordination of black people but it embraced the liberating power of jesus's example and they were all children of god. thurman sought to orient the readers to inflection of christianity in the hands of those who lived as slaves. think about the negative formulation of the sentence. this ain't african-american religion or ain't -- i have to say ain't instead of isn't. it says more about the commitment about the person who utters them than the religious practices. what is being noted here is the absence of something. that some essential element of what constitutes african-american christianity is missing. so i go through this in the paper that you have online. i'm trying to make a distinction between how african-american religion works an how we need to understand the way in which these categories take us into the chicken of actual practices. they bring certain things into view and they keep other things out of view. and what i'm thinking about is what happens when the category actually isn't doing the kind of work that we expect it to do.
how do we think of black christianity with nigerian pentecostals and the way in which the african-american religion has changed in that this protestant inflection keeps us from seeing all of the complexity on the ground. so in other words, i think we need to think carefully about the descriptive work or the analytic work that the category is doing, where it is guiding and leading us to. and if it is in the way, it is about time we get rid of it. thank you. [ applause ] i'm going to switch this powerpoint and -- that is not what i meant to do. >> will our heads be in the way? >> i don't think so. i think with images and through images and about imanls and so
i -- images and so i wanted to offer you some images from my work. you're good. my goal today is to suggest ways to broaden our scope for the study of african-american religious history beyond the traditional focus on protestantism and black churches. needless to say we miss the full complexity of this history if we have a predominant condition that emerge from the theological and institutional context. and in framing my remark this is way, i certainly do not mean to argue that this dominant tradition of protestantism is located primarily in black church denominations is not worthy of scholarly attention. in considering the future of the african-american religious past, however, i believe it is vital that we expand our scope of inquiry and this work involved in part acknowledging the fact of religious diversity in african-american religious life as eddie has talked about.
and devoting more attention to catholics, jews, muslim and others and secularists. and centering women and gender and sexuality in our work for example, i'm interested in what new understandings of and perspectives on african-american religious history emerge when we bring sites and sources other chan churches and -- than churches and clergy into view. and i have offer three sources on early 20th century african-american religious history that have led me to broaden my view of the sites and social actors of that history. so in 1941, veteran actor and director spencer williams released the blood of jesus. the first in a set of three religious movies he planned to make in the course of a decade and he did go do-- go down deat.
it is a trailer and whether he made it or was lost or never got to make. it these films were part of the broader landscape produced for black audiences and by this period had begun to decline in production and popularity. with the blood of jesus williams struck out beyond his comedic specialty as an actor into seeking to deliver a message of christian redemption in an entertaining package. not unique in mobilizing this combination of entertainment and evank lynx, he was successful in appealing to african-american viewers who saw his films in movie theaters and churches and school and community auditoriums. the blood of jesus is about gender and sexuality, family, you are anization and small-town church like and popular culture. and williams places the character of martha played by katherine cavines of the center of the story. although set in a christian context, the focus on marg's
highlight women as central figures in black religious life and williams presented a complex report of theology and religious community with only passing reference to church or male clergy. my work to analyze the film itself and the culture of advertise and the careers of the director and actors and exhibition and exception rendered the movie a production site of african-american religious history. my sources called on me to think about the cinema not only as a cultural and social and political environment as many scholars of early black film have demonstrated but also a religious one. that viewers of williams' films and other 20th century religious films engaged as such. bringing media and popular culture more fully into african-american religious history opens up new ways of thinking about the production and dissemination of ideas about religion but also the mediation of religious experience.
in the course of researching a recent project on the black new religious movements of the great migration, i turned to an online data base of visual records to learn more about wentworth arthur matthew, an immigrant from st. kips and from the eejy openan -- eejy oathan congregation. [ inaudible ]. i was interested in matthew's is certification at various points that he had been born in nigeria. the result of my search showed that in the official record matthew most often gave his birthplace as st. kips but his world war ii draft registration card from earp 26th, 1942, raised a host of other questions for me about individual and collective understandings of the relationship between religious and racial identity for blacks
in early 20th century america. and we see on this card that matthew considered his clerical title of rabbi to be so important that he squeezed it in above his name and also included it in his signature. on the other portion of the reg administration card, matthew asked for an amendment to the government supplied list of racial designators, wide receiver requests that hebrew be added to represent his linked religious and racial identity. matthew's request led me to wonder whether he was alone in this. and the draft registration records turned out to have hundreds of documents from members of what i have come to call religious racial movements who like matthew challenged the power of the state to define them solely according to race and from there their perspective the wrong race and insisted on being rupted on what they considered a intertwinned religious identity. within the archive i found
members of father devine's peace movement such as perfect endurance, a might rant to harlem from georgia, and who in keeping with father devine's theology that race is a negative construct of the mind, asked that he be listed as human. the trej strar complied but wrote his request above the supplied category of negro. alec brown bay, a migrant to philadelphia from south carolina and a member of the morris science temple insisted he was morish american. he wanted to note the complex and hair and eye color as olive, a therm many moore issuesed to describe themself. and we see that the registrar pushed back in the section where he had to affirm the truth of the information. he wrote that he believed brown bay was actually a negro. during the course of my research i came to see such bureaucratic paperwork and vital records such
as marriage and death certificates and government documents like census sheets and draft reg administration cards and immigration paperwork as rich in complex records of aspects of life within the religious racial movements, reading with, through and against such documents illuminates the race-making and maintenance work members of the religious groups undertook in daily life and in public context and calls on us to consider sites like the draft board, the county clerk office and the immigration judge's courtroom and the military base as one's both of exercise of state power and of religious expression and experience, sometimes in challenge to state power. in 1913, law enforcement and medical officials decided that mary f. wood, a 48-year-old missouri native living in north central, california, should be committed to the stockton state hospital for the insane. the commitment paperwork indicates that wood, a methodist, had, quote, walked
the streets glory be to god and singing and reading scripture and would not sleep night or day and wanted to be a preacher in the local church. the diagnosis was of insanity accompanied by fixed religious dilutions and the intake psychiatrist listed religion as a predisposing factor. street preaching and evangelizing and the desire to preach at a local church are not obvious indicators of mental illness. [ laughter ] although, it seems to me that gendered and racialized understanding of religious leadership may have played a role in the deputy sheriff's sense that wood was disruptive somehow. in wood's case, the religious expressions were situated in the context of an ongoing manic state that produced sleeplessness and exhaustion leading to her death eight days after admission to the hospital. on its own, this document is not particularly revealing of aspect of the african-american
religious past beyond those of an individual's religious expression and psychological distress. but placed in the larmer context of early 20th century psychiatric discourses and practices about race and religion, it directs us to a set of sources ab new sites for inquiry. wood was among many early 20th century african-americans who were remanded by court or committed by family members to psychiatric institutions and diagnosed with some form of religiously grounded mental illness. scholars for the history of racial mental illness in africa have emphasized the use of diagnosis institutionalization and treatment as a mode of containment of individual and group acts of resistance. few scholars have attended to the way that discourse is about black religion shaped the diagnostic category and psychiatrists in the united states created and the prognosis of diagnosis and the practice of treatment. early 20th center psychiatric is
filled with enduring negro salvagery and manifest in religion that make psychiatrists to continue to shape african-american traits of character habit and behavior. while such discourses about african-american religion were commonplace in early 20th century american culture, the page of the stockton state hospital commitment register that marks mary woods administration days before her death have led me to examine psychiatric literature that might reveal more about the intersection of african-american religious disability and the form of mental illness. wondering about mary wood's life, her religious commitments and aspirations and her experience in the stockton state hospital also require that i return to the mental institution as a site for the study of the african-american religious past. how might woods diagnosis as suffering from religious insanity guided the treatment she received from doctors and did ideas about race and
religion play a role in her commitment, treatment and eventually death. i'm putting these three documents from my research before, i hope to highlight the possibility of engaging sources and sites beyond the scope of the conventional ones there chu we have traditionally told the story of african-american religious history. as it clear, the sources and sites sometimes emerge from or have deep connections to the traditional arenas of religious life but they raise new sets of questions and highlight new social actors. and in addition to turning from the almost exclusive attention to black protestant churches and political struggle in the past, turning from this helps to -- us to interpret the texture and complexity of the current religious landscape that includes developments like the prosperity gospel that have influence beyond the black communities, varieties of islam, among blim and the impact of the
caribbean and black religious life, new forms of spirituality not tied to christian institutions and new religious bases that center black geared presence and more. so more understanding of the african-american religious past helps to situate these in a longer history of variety connectivity and context change that has always characterized black religious life in america. thank you. [ applause ] good morning. it is indeed an honor and pleasure to be here and i'm so appreciative of jim grossman and lonnie bunch and all who have made this possible. i have -- as someone else said the other day, i have seen friends i haven't seen in 40
years. so it is really wonderful to be here. i want to talk to you about the bible politics of the black freedom struggle. today most americans upon hearing the term bible politics would associate it with the religious right, with the conservative evangelical wing of the republican party. yet its etymology tells of different roots, specifically that of radical abolitionists in the 1840s and 1850s who believes that god's law and justice lay at the very foundation of civil government and laws. unlike the followers of william lloyd garrison who disdained the constitution and who sought the immediate end of slavery through moral persuasion, the abolitionists who followed politics professed the got pell
of liberty through political discourses and institutions. and historians like milton sarnette and john stauffer, james brewer stewart and more recently militia sinhuh observe the bible politics coined by the abolitionists, those in third party politics. the liberty party and its successors, particularly the radical abolition party. they proclaimed the gospel of liberty in order to end the sin of slavery. however, despite the coinage in this specific context, bible politics so precisely captured the fusion of religion and politics, it so succinctly interlocks religion, race, law and rights that i argue for its analytical usefulness over a
much more expansive period. what i'm calling the bible politics of the black freedom struggle rests on the distinction between obedience to natural, devine, law and civil man-made law. it rejects as artificial the binary between the religious and the political. by emphasizing god's law, a higher moral law, as the basis of civil law. and as the moral ref rent for evaluating the civil laws. what makes it distinct is the sent ralt of religious ideas and bringing about equality and justice through the american ideals, documents and processes and institutions. and when you see it online, i talk about where you could see religious language in the declaration of in dependence, you also see it in these enlightenment thinkers like john
lock. attention to religious language reveals the perceived linkage between the universal ideals in the bible and the natural law ideals of the american nation. as presented in the declaration of in dependence and the constitution. but it also reveals the centuries-long contestation over the meaning and application over laws and rights. a contestation in which both sides, both the anti-slavery side and the pro-slavery side, both the civil rights workers and the segregationists are validating their perspectives by using the same foundational text. the declaration of in dependence, the constitution and the bible. for many of american history, the fusion of religion and politics have undergurted white accept recommend assy and the suppose order nation of -- and for example the racial purity laws expose the most fundamental expression of the long-standi
long-standinglong-standing inseparable of laws. and let me give you a example from the state of virginia. as early -- this is a colony now. in 1662, virginia legislators sought to curb interracial sex and the colonies growing mixed-race population by increasing a punitive fine from yet an earlier law. so the laws actually pre-date 1662. and the law of 1662 said if any christian shall commit fornication with a black man or woman, he or she is so offe offending, shall pay double the fines imposed by the former act. and the law was really meant to curb mill ados and targeted to women and if you were a white woman and had a mixed slave child, they would not be a slave, but inherit the status of
the mother. and it is interesting that the law used the word christian for white people. and while you might think, that is interesting and maybe black people didn't go to church. that is not true. because some of the cases are black and white churchgoers. but more importantly, i would like you to think about the post-brown decision when many schools and counties in virginia closed. in fact -- i shouldn't say they just simply closed, counties of virginia closed public schools to resist the brown decision. when they opened the white schools, often they were called christian schools. so that law in 1662, we can go up until the loving case. and many of us know about the loving case. richard and mildred loving were an interracial couple who took their marriage to the supreme court in 1967. and it was validated as a legal marriage. but in 1965, this is on the way to the supreme court, the
circuit judge in caroline county said that their marriage was illegal and he talked about states rights but also added this dictum, almighty god creates the races, white, black, melee and red and placed them on separate continents and but for the interference with his arrangement, there would be no cause for such marriages. the fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix. so this is actually in the legal document of 1965. and they were -- they were actually in jail. they had spent some time in jail until -- in the process of fighting for this. so the bible politics of the black freedom struggle offers a
counter narrative. it offers the competing normal universe. it exists as a combination of principles that also continued over the centuries and i will identify them as follows. one is the biblically validated oneness of humanity. and this is based on the book of acts in the bible, chapter 17, verse 26, god had made the nations of one blood. and based on that, the argument goes, and it goes to the colonial period to today, that because of that, humanity is one and so freedom is a natural condition of all persons. and then the second point is the sacred quality of the declaration of in dependence and the liberating spirit of the constitution. and number three, the recognition of just laws and unjust laws with emphasis on obedience to just laws. four, the essentiality of a
multi-racial coalition for lasting success and five, the moral obligation on the part of african-americans to make america live up to its ideals. so i give examples in the paper, the first is from the revolutionary war era and the early republic. next is from the time of the abolitionists and then from the 20th century. and from the early period i draw from the public addresses and writings from the black new englander reginold haines who was a soldier in the continental army he was a the loathal and a minister and in 1976, so the war is going on, he writes an essay called libty further extended and he said the revolutionary war could not usher in true american liberty until freedom was extended to the black
slaves. there is a story about the unfinished business about america. haines based his anti-slavery argument on the bible and the declaration of in dependence when he wrote that freedom was a natural condition of mankind and i quote him. liberty and freedom is an in ate principal which is unmovably placed in the human species and to see man aspire after it is notten egg mattical, seeing that he acts in no ways incompatible with his own nature. liberty is a jewel which was handed down to man from the cabinet of heaven. it preseeds from the supreme legislature of the universe. and building on this rational, he goes on to explain why slavery is an unjust system. and he distinguishes between just and unjust laws to the rights of blacks and i'm quoting him again, every privilege that mankind enjoyed have their origin from god and whatever act
surpassed in any earthly court which are derogatory to the edicts passed in the court of heaven are void and martin luther king used that same just of laws 100 years later. and in fact the language is very similar. and the appeal to the moral liberating context of the constitution in the face of unjust law could be seen in december 30th, 1799, in a petition to congress by jones and other free black citizens of philadelphia. and in the petition of color, it is called the petition of the people of color, freeman within the city and the suburbs of philadelphia, the 70 -- there is 70 signatures, focused on some of them just put x's by their name but they focused on the fugitive slave act of 1793. they were conscious of exercises rights as citizens. the black petitioners acknowledged their own enjoyment of the natural right to liberty
and their sense of duty to speak for the slaves. and quote them, our afflicted brethren suffering under various circumstances in different parts of these states, but deeply sympathizing with them. so scholarship in the last decade or so on abolitionists now moving to the second period, scholarship on this third party radical abolition party also shows that you have these same kind of sentiments. although overwhelmingly white in member, the liberty party and the radical abolition party welcomed blacks and members to their meetings. so for example the 1844 platform made explicit the invitation, quote, for our colored fellow citizens to eternity with us in the liberty party. and both parties nominated black persons for office on their national tickets. most recently moneesha sinhuh
identified a number of leading black abolitionists. african-americans were a minority in the party and as minority in their own state and also participated in the political parties like the liberty party and the radical abolition parties. so black leaders like henry harland garr let and samuel ward and the fugitive slave henry bib campaigned for the liberty party. however it is interesting that at the same time that they are doing this campaigning, henry highland garnet proudly -- he is proudly identifying with the liberty party, garnet is also remembered for his fiery address at the national negro convention in buffalo in 1843 where he urged the slaves to rise up against their masters in the manner of denmark veasey and nat turner and the speech was long
remembered for his fiery resistance, he said resistance and resistance and yet that very speech also included the familiar rhetoric of the bible politics of the black freedom strugg struggle. and i quote darnet, sages admired it. the declaration of independence was a glorious document and the patriotic of every nation reverence the god-like sentiments which it could contained. he then proceeded to condemn the founding fathers for their limited embrace of universal rights and then i read him again. when the power of government returned to their hands, did they emancipate the slaves? no. they added new links to our chains. and every man's mind the good seeds of liberty are planted and he who brings his fellow down so low as to make him content with a condition of slavery commits the higher crime against such laws. now, violence found expression
in the radical abolition party and john stauffer talks about for example douglas -- frederick douglas who used to be a follower of garrison and now he has become by the 1850s, after 1850, a radical ab ollist is and he writes in his newspaper he want men at the crisis who could not be frightened of our radical doctrines because of their unpopularity and let us not grow weary that whatever is right is practicable and go forth to conquer though we die in the conflict. and at that inaugural abolition party meeting was john brown who would go on to kansas and then a few years later to harper's fary. so from the foundy of the civil rights of the 1960s, the bible policy of the struggle has continuously maintained the team of purifying america and making america live up to its ideals or
as martin luther king stated, with regard to the constitution, on april 3rd, 1968, the day before he died, always say to america, is to be true to what you said on paper. bible politics has been pursued through overwhelmingly black organizations and reliance on a multi-racial basis and thus the southern leadership conference led by martin luther king, adopted the slogan to save the soul of america. while at that same time, it promoted nonviolent obedience to unjust laws of the 1950s and 60s but lclc, along with other civil rights organizations also believed that the gains toured racial justice must come through laws and executive orders and judicial opinions. this would entail not only interracial, all black efforts but also alliances across the races. despite the complications and despite the setbacks occurring in each context.
and want to end the paper with examples from women. betty collier thomas in her book, jesus, jobs and justice, discusses religion and politics by the activities of black church who engaged in black politics an fighting of passing legislation such as anti-lynching and the civil rights laws so for over decades she identified less familiar names. one is florence spearing randolph who was a zion ministers who was a pastor of a church but involved in republican women's organizations and black and white women from the 1920s do the 1940s. and i'll also mention jennifer scan lynn's new biography on ana arnold hedgeman who was involved in the march on washington moving in 1941 and as well as the interracial christian organizations in the 1960s.
and these organizations lobbied for the civil rights act of 1964. so i conclude that we need to see more about the political activism of the religious people in america. and black people in particular. because the piebible politics o the black liberation struggle is undoubtedly an important intervention in african-american and american history. thank you. [ applause ] good morning. i want to thank everyone for inviting me to this wonderful conference. every time i pass by the museum, i look at it and i think, this is the right jewel on the crown on the mall. and it's gorgeous. if you looked at my paper online, you could think of that as the historical graphic that
will go with what i'm saying now. which you don't know what i'm going to say now which will probably make a few people nervous. i want to start off by telling a story that encapsulated not only my interest in history and religion and in ways african-american religion is always present whether you recognize it or not. i gain my love of history not only from my mother, but my high school teacher, my history teacher wayne ford, outside of houston, texas. mr. ford was a dapper dresser and came to school, sharp and briefcase organized and he was very patient with me when i asked way too much questions in the classroom and harassed him with questions after class. when i graduated from high school, he he told me that he was retiring soon and that he could be buying a drugstore in houston, texas. and that i should come and visit him. and i didn't understand why i he -- he was buying a drug store
so i thought i would come over. so my best friend and i traveled to 2718 lions avenue in houston's fifth ward to stanleys a drugstore. when i walked in, i was stunned to see wax candles in body parts, oils, powders and my former history teaching behind the counter with his brow arched behind hi huge classes waiting on a customer. my history teacher was a hoo-doo man and i never knew it. and he probably put something on me and i don't even know. [ laughter ] needless to say, my mind was blown. i had to rethink everything about what i knew about dr. ford as his customers called him. this new business of oils and powders and candles that he was surrounded by were very exciting to me. and i had a whole new set of questions. meanwhile, my best friend was trying to find the right oil to get the most hips out of her
waitressing jobs that summer and i kneel to tell you -- i need to tell you all it worked and i know historians don't like to talk about that kind of stuff but there you go. if you think this is an aberration, take a look at the new york l.a. times in which the drugstore is still going strong and is featured in a great article bimonthlily hennessey fisk with a picture of stephanie may niece to dr. ford who now currently runs the store. i relate thisstory because i suspect many of you us while looking for the traditional markers of african-american religion look to the protestant black church. you think of a choir, die nat ick preacher. you think of women in hats. but we miss the quotidian ways in which religion is practiced right in front of us by african-americans. many of you who have relatives who wouldn't eat at somebody's house or have somebody who told you not to comb your hair in certain places or had different practices and ticks that you might have thought were spiritual in nature or just superstition but you paid little thought about where they came from. i've been thinking a lot in the past few years about an
alternative narrative to get at african-american religion. and in the spirit of thinking about the world "future" in the title of this conference, i want to think and explore a future in which we consider a different trajectory for the broader field of research and writing about black religion and history so many of the great histories that have been written take the arc of the slave religion the establishment 6 of black churches like the ame and baptist convention and on. we know that in today's world free he.com ain't free. and that sometimes the freedom you think you get is not there. i want to be clear that i don't think that we should stop doing the history of black churches but i do think that it is time to destroy this idea of the black church that has held african-american religion enthrall. and what i mean by that is this. if we take the whole narrative about the spiritual lives of african-americans and we frame that only within the specter of
protestant black churches then we miss the entirety of what black religion is all about. we miss the whole story. we make the people who have these stories, we put them in a second place, in a second category and that is not what we should do. because if we think about protestantism it has an inherent bias of patriotic norm that's are reinforced by scripture and in part that whole narrative also got inculcated within the worth of anthropologists and sociologists who wrote about black religion in the ert early parts. 20th sent rixt and a lot of those representations of black religion have also influenced historians. and so this idea about black religion that exists outside of a church frame or a protestant frame is always seen as other. it's ab arant. it's primitive. i think there's another way to think of that arc of african-american religion and i want to frame my remarks today in light of an's say in the
journal of afr kahns religion which is entitled "afr qana religious studies toward a transdisciplinarian agenda and field." they propose that the study of african religions must disconnect itself from the previous debates positive -- e. franklin frasier and others, especially theologians, suggesting that in search researching and making available the diversity of u.s. african-american religious cultures and the range of encounters and exchanges that have produced them, secular historians have much to offer religionists. and i think that's true and that is the case. historians have often pointed us to stories that we didn't know. but on the other hand i think that those of us who do religiouses history have a very firm -- we have a very firm responsibility to do this work in a different way. i want to engage the insightful
essay to consider how opening up our hiss toy to this diversi helps you us to consider a profoundly different historical arc of african-americans and religion. instead of that narrative from slave religion to freedom, we must connect to the african pest. i think this is crucial. we haven't talked very much on this panel this morning about the ways in which african looms as a presence and we need to be able to begin to think back on how with we are going to do this narrative over again. and make that narrative more clearly connect to african antecedents of religion. and that would include christianity and catholicism and islam and other religions. it brings into sharp relief the geographic and regional aspects of african-american religion an we can cut these in a different way if we eliminate this black church thing that's happening. and following this trajectory can tell us so much more about slavery migration, freedom the urban space and the future.
put another way, by considering this history outside of christianity, we open up space for the creative ways in which african-americans use religion as a way to make a creative space, to create identity, to connect to the diaspora, and to manage every day lives and give them self determination and worth in a racist society. in order to do that, i want to talk about three different stories this morning that i think speak to that narrative of difference. and you might be surprised about a couple of them, not so much because uf might not know them. because of the wunz i've kmoezen make a representation of certain kinds of stories. the first is a story about c.h. mason and the church of god and christ. the second is a story about father maurice rousseff who is a black priest in the society for divine word and the third is johnny coleman. you probably know mason as the co-founder of the church of god in christ, a the church i wrote about in my first book pd he was
the first presiding bishop. what many people don't know outside of those who study pentecostalism is that there's a very famous picture of mason with his roots and signs and wonders of nature. in this picture, he's holding different kinds of potatoes and tree branches, things like this that all spoke to him that he said were part of god's wonders of creation. but he also used them to heal people. in the past, people wrote about mason as someone who was caring for slave religion, but we might think about those antecedents as going back even further than just slave religion. they go back to africa. and in a book about mason, all of this in the life and ministry of charles harrison mason, he has a picture of him with his roots but it also talks about how he used those works, those roots to preach from xrip tire, to talk about the wonders of god, the wonders of jesus and all this. and this fusion is a different way to think about what is
actually happening. i'd contend that pe-- we need t begin to think about this in a much different way because there's a fusion of spiritual traditions, it's a fusion of catholicism. it has many different things going on. mason even talks about reading the entrails to see the signs and wonders of god and in one particular message he gives he talks about sexual spirits coming to people in the middle of the night and people having these kinds of issues and them needing prayer in the church. now, this is not a normal protestant sermon. okay? but if you begin to read these narratives and look at what people are say, especially a lot of the black pent caecost tal traditions, you'll see a trajectory of spiritualty in all of these things and people being really confused about what the holy spirit is and what another spirit is. and i think we have to begin to look at those in a different kind of way to speak to the
myriad of ways that these traditions keep popping up in every one of these narratives and show us something different. second, maurice rousseff. maurice was one of the first four black men who went into the seminary in 1921 in fwlbiloxi, mississippi. sorry, eddie. i know you're from mississippi. a prominent creole family in new orleans. one of his sisters became a nun. his other brother became a jesuit priest. he went to the seminary at the age of 14 to the society for divine word in greenville, mississippi. he was ordained in 1934 and in 1941 he was sent to st st. martinsville, louisiana to notre dame of po-- church. that church was staebld by mother catherine drexel. now, you might wonder why you're telling a story about a black priest he it's not just a story of a black priest t. as the story of an execution. an execution of i willy francis.
and if you know this story, this is one of the stories that went to the supreme court. maurice rousseff was willie francis -- willie francis' confessor. he heard his final confession. this was a young african-american man who was accused of kill will a pharmacist in louisiana. he probably didn't do it, but he was framed for it. and when they sent him to the electric chair the first time which was located not somewhere far away but right there in the center of town in the courthouse, the electric chair didn't work. he was shocked, but he was not killed. and so this case went to the supreme court and father rousseff fought for this young man's life. and in that narrative, he talked about the kinds of racialized things that were happening. there was no black church that was strong enough to save anybody in st. martinville, louisiana. it was the black priest who had
to testify. and so if we don't look for where these other stories might pop up, and begin to see the myriad of ways of different kinds of clergy working, then we miss the story. unfortunately, willie francis was put to death and the second time he was electric cuted he died. but rousseff was in the middle of that story. third story very briefly, johnny coleman some of you might know that name. she's a founder of united christ temple in chicago, illinois. she preached the science of mind and started a church in 19 fwixt. we talk about people like father divine. we talk about reverend ike. but johnny coleman should get the credit for having a church for at one time other 20,000 members. she was probably one of the first mega churches past 1950. when she moved into the science of mind, she like many other people who became clergy at this time had a profound experience of illness, decided to start
studying what her mother had been passing out to her in pamphlets, and became a preacher and was into met at that physical thinking. we don't talk a lot about african-americans who embrace science of mind and have decided to turn away from traditional ways of thinking about christianity. but all of these stories say something and what do they say? they say number one that we should think about the ways in which this religious history, these religious complexes of african-americans who are practicing religion are not these traditional stories of the preacher, the music and the frenzy. i invoke dubois here because i think in many ways although i love his work that there has been a narrative that has cut out the voices of many others in this historical narrative of african-american religion. if we miss these stories, we miss the whole point about what religion is in america. i've often thought about henry mcneil turner when he said god
is a black man. and you can draw a trajectory from henry mcneil turner to father divine who says he is god. how do you go from a black man saying god is black to the black man saying he is god? we need to begin to consider and dedestruct and reconstruct our narrative so that we can have a clear clearer perspective about what african-american religion really is. it's not just the preacher the music and the frenzy. it's not just a beautiful hat. it's not just church mothers that i've written about. but it is a whole complex of religion that can connect us to a broader world of the african diaspora and beyond. thank you. [ applause ] >> can you hear me?
i thank you all. i would be remiss if i did not mention that our bloggers this morning are professor wallace best who is professor of religion and african-american studies at princeton and paul harvey, professor of history and presidential teaching scholar at the university of colorado, colorado springs. and i deliberately abbreviated the introductions of our speakers to make sure that we had enough time for discussion. before we open this up to the audience, i have a question for each one of you. eddie, i'd like to start with you. i understand what you were saying about categorizing african-american religion and the question that i'm about to ask probably you would not want to answer but i'm going to make you answer it anyway. how does one -- you have a black
congregation and white leadership, okay? is this an authentic african-american religion, or it's just african-american life, or it's an african-american religious experience? to what extent does that white presence, especially in the leadership role, change the experience? i guess i'm asking. >> we can actually -- father pfleger, right? we can in chicago, right? so part of what i'm trying to do by troubling the category is to say that it's precisely those sorts of experiences, those sorts of inconstitutional realities that complicate some of the hidden assumptions about african-american religion because what we're trying to do at that moment is to kind of fit
it into kind of a prior understanding of what an african-american religious life actually entails. so with when we look at the complexity of african-american religious life we're going to see that. right? now, what is at work on the part of the historian or the cultural critic to try to fit it into a category of african-american religion? is what i'm trying to interrogate. i'm trying to push. and what gets lost in that moment when we have to ask ourselves, is it that, or is it not? as opposed to just letting the -- looking at the experiences themselves and what's going on and what's happening and what is father pfleger doing with this kind of neopentecost neopentecostalized catholicism? instead we're trying to fit it into something called african-american religion or fit it into something called black church. and i want to say that something gets lost there. let me just say this really quickly because i didn't go over ten minutes. >> that is true.
>> i just had to do that. >> you can make it up there. >> i felt my mother popping me up side the head. the dubois reference, in the paper i wrote i talk about the dow boyce reference and the preacher and the frenzy. but dubois is really deliberate. we tend to read of the faith of the fathers as his definitive statement on african-american will religious life but remember at the end of that chapter he calls for a new religious ideal. and in the next chapters of the passing of the first born. and so i'm thinking that part of what dubois is actually doing is thinking about or treating african-american churches, christianity, doing an institutional history. and then he's actually calling for a new religious ideal and it might very well be embedded, right in the way in which he's dealing with death. with the death of his son. so something is much more interesting happening there. and then i want to say this in terms of bible politics. i know you have some more
questions. that there's convict tectestati. i'm thinking about the ways in which bible politics actually reflect not so much a commitment to america living up to its ideals or purifying america as such but actually is the ground to reject america as such. right? and then the other element of bible politics is receihetorica value of the bible. that people night not be invested in the truth claims of the bible but like emerson and others they learn how to speak with the bible. so is james baldwin engaging in bible politics? i don't know. but we know the bible is everywhere in james baldwin. >> if we could continue along that vein, does there have to be a connection to institutionalized religion? because we know that a lot of these black men and white men who are pursuing this are
ministers but not all are. so does there have to be an affiliation with an institution or just because you know the bible and you know -- you think you know what god's plan is. >> so for me, and i make a distinction in the longer paper, i wouldn't include the ethiopians as bible politics because i take literally this idea of the abolitionists who are saying that we are going to stay in america. enac in fact, that's one of their themes, that we're going to stay in america. our blood has made this country. we're going to make it better. and then what they do is they draw on the, quote, sacred documents of our founding nation. so the reason -- and i say the different group that's don't fit into this type of bible politics, and so i want people to understand that looking back at the past, looking even before
that time and then looking right up to the present, you can go to north carolina for moral mondays. so this is a tradition, and i think it's a tradition that's worthy of talking about. but no, obviously you don't have to be a minister to have bible politics. what you do is you engage the political system through petitions like jones did, through public writings like lemuel haines or martin luther king. you challenge the system to live up to what it's supposed to do. frederick douglas was certainly not a minister. neither was james mckuhn smith who's in this bible politics. but they use literally the language of the bible. you know, they literally use bible passages. they invoke god. if they're not invoking god, then i am -- i'm not calling -- it's not as narrow. i'm being somewhat narrow here. but i do think it's a tradition that has a long history and it's
a tradition that has been now we think about it so much with the right that we don't realize how that tradition has been used all along as a counternarrative to this other way that the bible is used politically. >> and dr. wisin feld, i am intrigued with the case of mary wood and the idea that religion can be be linked to mental illness, although i think some of us would recognize that connection even had we not read your paper. but you indicate that there's a racialization of this whole thing. did you find any instances of white patients being diagnosed with -- >> i'm really only just getting started on this, and it grows out of a previous project in which i was reading.
i became very intrigued by the psychiatric literature about followers of father divine. and there was by this time an assumption that a man who calls himself god is of course crazy. but then psychiatrists, sociologists and so on turn to think, who's following this man who says he's god. and the psychiatric literature was very distinctive in rehearsing a litany that goes something like, the negro is three generations removed from savagery, two generations removed from slavery, one generation removed from the rural south. and when i looked -- when i started to think about a broader context, i found a large set of psychiatric literature that does the same thing. that links diagnostic categories and practices to this cluster of ideas about savage religion, superstition and so on.
what i think is the case, although i haven't done the research to prove it, is it was common in 19th century america for whites to be diagnosed with religious insanity, mania, melancholy. by the early 20th century i think this's very narrow to the racialized frame. i'm interested in the kind of disciplinary frame, another arena where religion gets used to contain certain things about african-american life. and i'm really just at the start of this. yes, there are people in these institutions in the little archival work i've done who are not black who have religion attached as -- or something else. but then whu locate then you lo the larger psychiatric framing, i was very surprised. >> and dr. butler, you mentioned something in your paper that i think is very important to
emphasize here. you talked about the fact that we have records that could help us challenge that traditional narrative that everything is protestant and it's church based and all of the rest. but that those records are languishing in basements and in attics and people who are tasked with soming to clean out grandma's home after she's passed away are not so -- are not predisposed to notice certain kinds of important document that's we should be preserving. what would be be your advice to this audience about ensuring that we don't lose those important records? >> first of all, if you know somebody that's older that is ill and they're about to clean out the house, go run over there and grab everything. just go buy a tub or something and go get it because i can't tell you how much is being lost right now. and it's not just the papers and
the print. it's the material culture of this. you know, if you see a bottle of holy water or oil or something, that's part of a story. and we need those stories. we don't have those stories. and you know i want to bring up something that has been a point for all of us and ed dill know what i'm about to say, the african-american religious doc that started in the '90s. there are documents from 1444 to the 20th century that nobody's looked at or touched yet. i think's a tragedy because there are so in dissertations and book that's have not been written because that project was not out. and i've talked a lot about it, but i'm going to say it publicly now. if there's any way to get that out in the open, let's do it. let's do it now because it's passed time for these stories to come out. now we're going to have an african-american museum on the mall, we need to begin to think about the next generation. you're looking at right now only
a handful of people who teach in the area of african-american religious history. two of us are sitting right next to each other. and we wonder about what our legacy is going to be. not that we need a legacy but the work needs a legacy. and if we're not training enough people and we don't have the materials we need in order to train them, then the stories are gone. that's it. >> let's take some questions from the audience. starting here. >> good morning. thank you. my name is barbara savage from the university of pennsylvania. i want to certainly thank the panel for much-needed attention to the variegated nature of religious practices among people of african descent. always needed and really really beautifully presented this morning. so i wanted to really ask a question that is more of a theme attic question. i was actually thinking about it yesterday when dylan penning
groth. i wanted to ask a question about freedom and whether it is -- when you talk about all of this religious practices that folks are engaged in, is there a way in which the freedom of religion is the one right that african-americans have been able to protect and use more than others even with the legal conflictivicstrictions that we' about here and if so why or why not? so really asking a question about the freedom of religious practice because your panel will be an argument for everybody can do anything they want to do up to a point as long as you're not hurting anybody else. i want to put that there as a way of talking about african-american religion and the state. and laws and representation of that. and the second is to say, on black protestantism, even as we talk about the variegated nature of african-american religion and the need for all of the work that's being done that's
represented by this panel, one of the most under studying aspects of african-american religion is black protestantism. i'll tell you that as someone who in terms of trying to get down in the trenches and to write the histories of individual churches and religious communities in individual cities and states and counties in this country. so let's not throw all of that out. it's that material that's most likely in your grandmother's attic. and then the final thing has to do with all of this variety of religious practices among black people. has anybody given any thought or done any work on intraracial religious conflict and tension? all the conversation we had about community and who's an african-american. how are black people holding themselves together as a political unit with all of this amazing religious diversity? >> who would like to answer? >> i can start with some part of it. i mean, religious freedom i
think one could argue that whether it's the church and state difference which obviously my people wouldn't do. but the freedom -- i mean, i do think we do need to acknowledge that. the slave wrz not free to worship the way they wanted to worship, you know. and their efforts to either sneak away and worship or to worship in these white churches that were telling them to obey their masters. so the idea of freedom of religion didn't really apply to them in the same way it did to other people. but later i think there's some validity to that. i'll let the others talk about that. but it was the last point -- what was your last point? [ indiscernible ] well, baptist, my goodness. the whole idea of the split, you know. these churches splitting. but as i was saying to dylan
yesterday, one of the biggest fights in the national baptist convention occurred in 1915 over their publishing company. and it was terrible. one man was killed, you know, falling off the stage or something. but when they split, it was about one not being incorporated. so there are -- there's a big fight -- dylan mentions this later -- with the national baptists again and the formation of the prosecute gresive national baptist convention and the national baptist convention was the jackson side and the king side was the other. so there's lots of very, know, great tension. not only at huge denominational levels but also within churches. that's -- when you hear about splitting, the church splitting, that's what that's about. [ indiscernible ]
>> that as the other -- of he wasn't a baptist? >> he was baptist but then he goes into the holiness movement and backs pentecost al. >> he started off baptist. i've never read anything about real fights between these other groups. i have not. that doesn't mean they don't exist. >> i will say something that i hope will connect maybe your first and third question. i mean, freedom of religion one has to be deemed to have a religion to have freedom of religion. and so the ways in which the state defines what is religion shapes whether or not african-americans are able to express religious freedom. i was struck in reading some of the early morris voice newspaper and one of the things noble says
is there is freedom of religion in america and so we will pursue that. and he calls on other african-americans to respect freedom of religion. so he's invested in that sort of thing. and trying to expand the scope of what african-americans consider to be religion. and in that regard i was struck if you read my paper on this by how much fighting is going on between protestant clergy and the leaders of the new religious movement, the members as well. but i was especially interested in the way that the black press kind of took up the role of arbitrating what is appropriate religion in public. so beyond just the question of whether one can exercise freedom of religion or not, the conflicts that i saw were about people trying to do the work that eddie is talking about, kind of constraining -- containing everyone in this narrow box of religion because
it gives us a better case beyond right for civil rights and so on if we look right. so there ac so there's a lot of dispute and work. the last thing i'll say is eastbound as noble is saying america gives us the opportunity to zpres ourselves religiously, the fbi is surveilling them by the 1940s and martin is working on fbi and religion and that kind of surveillance is very powerful. >> just two quick point bz that. you know, disestablishment is at the heart of american denominationalism, right? the proliferation of it. will groffly has done some really interesting work in talking about how that informs and shapes the emergence of black religious denominations in an interesting way. so we're part of that story. we often kind of think of them as splat. the second point is, if conflict is actually thought about and analyzed, here i'm actually pretending to be a historian, is where we see the metaphor of
marketplace. the kind of religious marketplace is where we begin to see -- at least this is how i'm thinking about it in addition to judith. this is where we begin to see that's kind of consumption based model as people are trying to compete for various places, where are you caoing to go, who are you going to go to. reverend ike has his service at 2:00. you can go to your service and come to mine after you leave yours. this marketplace gives us a point of entry into understanding how the competition is happening and how that competition can then become confli conflict. >> yes? >> hi, steve lipson, graduate student at vanderbilt. i appreciate this discussion, the diversity of african-american political expression although one thing i noticed is a lot of the focus is on still a prophetic tradition of looking at combating white supremacy or the black freedom struggle or against capital punish themement in one case. what i was wondering is if can you talk about the importance of
conservativism and avenues of african-american conservativism. >> thank you. that's something i didn't bring up because you only can get so much in in ten minutes. but i've been thinking a lot about this because of the election cycle. and actually just a longer history about conservativism. and i really think that that's a story that we're missing because part of this is all about how you are going to be in the world and what gets you what you need to get. you know, if we think about religion as doing certain kinds of things and i think that on the one hand we've talked a lot about black churches being the freedom bringer and everything else. but let's face it, the black church is not very progressive on some other issues if we're going to talk about the monolith. now, we break it apart, it's not -- you know, we're going to see a lot of different things so i there's a lot of room to do that work. i think a lot of that is political work. i think about somebody's work like -- on black republicans and we need to start to connect
black republicanism to the kinds of ways dm which people are religious concerns on top of that. so i think there's a big rich history that could probably be written there. i think the book remains to be written however historically on, you know, sexual practices and sexual relationships because that's always the hardest thing i think for me as a historian to to get to. but i think the ways in which there's one kind of conservativism but there's another kind of freedom in the midst of black churchs that we need to talk about as the -- you know, i keep saying i used to say that bill clinton got don't ask don't tell from black churches. unfortunately because it's a thing, right? and i hate that because this is something that we really do need to get at historically. and i think there's starting to be some very good work on that. so i hope that kind of answers your question. it's something i've been very interested in for a variety of reasons. >> very quickly, you can go back
to dow boyce' essay, he says the church is differentiating. he's making that distinction. he's seeing that as early as 1903. when you look at reverend ike, for example, he actually lifts portion of oral roberts' biography and makes them his own. so we're kind of thinking of these as parallel but they're not. harvard just acquired carlton pierson's archive. i mean, this is christian network, right? so this is the kind of way in which we have to -- i'm not saying stop looking at black churches. you know, 78% of black folk are protestant. 78%. so if you're going to go to the ground and look at what's going on, you're good to see christianity everywhere. as well as other things it's just what's getting in the way of us understanding the complexity of those practices. that's what we're talking about. >> also just one thing about conservativism, too, and it ties to your question, barbara.
only often in the black church you have a designation of progressives and conservatives. so if someone like a reverend ransom in the early 20 nl century would have been a progressive minister and in the context of their perception of who's progressive and who's conservative is they use it usually the conservative people are the people who see the church solely as a spiritual place and you don't get involved in all this other kind of stuff. so that's another issue where conservative is used differently in that black tradition. >> please keep your questions short and your answers even shorter. >> got it. >> so we can get more people. >> well done. >> i don't have a question. my name is sharlamar. my comment is be, wh, when i sa the question what is african-american religion, i
wondered if there would be anyone who would talk about religion from not a christian concept. and i thought that because i was not raised a christian. and i wonder what it would be like to talk about religion and then to put african-american in front of religion and not use christian terminologies such as the black church, preacher, congregation, to imagine a religion that does not have an image of god and god is not a man and to imagine being in a space where worship does not have sound or very little and there is no call in response or to imagine a religion that does not have music in that body. and then to imagine being and i'm one of those people who grew up in the faith islam and don't let me mislead you. i'm cold. that's why this is on my head as such right now.
my uniform has nothing to do with religion at the moment. but what i think about is when religion and the is put in front of the african-american religion there's a body of people who are missed. and i'm from a family of muslims whose great-grandparents with were lomuslims whose grand pares are muslimses and my parents and nieces and nephews. so this is not a religion that we come through through the nation of islam. >> yes. [ applause ] >> hi, i'm abby cooper, brandeis university. and my question is, what are the possibilities and costs for historians writing black lives into the center of american history but ultimately
downplaying the religion part, the word "religion," and emphasizing political, making it black politics? and related to that, what is the supernatural in this? you know, yesterday walter johnson said nat turner didn't think he had -- he thought he was a messenger of god. so the supernatural and agency sometimes seem to be at odds. but what happens when the supernatural, the sign kwa none for black religionists but it seems most disposable to historians. >> that's a history problem. >> well, i'll just say very quickly nat turner would not have used the word "supernatu l "supernatural." he would have thought religion. in fact, we have -- loni bunch has nat turner's bible. that's going to be one of the things you'll be able to see. when john brown is at this convention, he's white and he talks about we have to do this
through the shed blood. he's quoting from hebrews. so that religious talk is there, and i think the point ways making is that it's not just politics. see, i think what's important for us is to see religion in places we don't ordinarily see it. >> i think sometimes even in places where -- have to see it but historians don't. i think edward curtis' work on -- is to say this is a movement that is obviously a religious movement and yet has only a largely been written about as a political movement. what does it mean to think about it as a religious and a political movement at the same time paz warlt of his work. and that's something that i'm really interested in and i think it's a very important question and a difficult one. but for historians to attend very carefully to the particular
religious context, vernacular, how people understand the divine in any given context, as part of the political work that people might be doing or people might not be doing political work. >> yes? >> good morning. my question is primarily for professor claude. professor james cone's black theology of liberation certainly challenged the narrative of theology. does professor kohn's work in any way influence your work and do you still think it's relevant? >> it's definitely relevant and it shapes my work in so far as it's an object of intellectual curiosity. you know, i tend to read black liberation theology as a form of apologetics that it is trying to translate the prophetic black church into the idiom of black power. so it's dealing with other pieties in its midst, pieties
like cultural nationalism and kwanzaa and the pieties of a certain type of black nationalist imaginary. it emerges in that context so when you read black theology and black power you see that what he's doing is he's engaging in a translation project, right? in order to ensure the relevancy of a black prophetic tradition in a moment that is not -- that is secularizinging, not secularizing in the kind of traditional sense of religion moving into the private but secularizing in the sense where you have competing vocabularies, right? and the language has to emerge that can cautalk across these sectarian differences. so garvey posits his language as a way to talk across these sectarian differences, right? just come to the unia and you could be baptist, methodist, whatever, there's a different -- and so kohn is actually trying toernt into that moment and i think if you fail to read black liberation theology as a form of
apologetics then you will fail to see how its hiss toshgal conscienceness overdetermines its theological consciousness. because it has a hiss tore yog raphy that's indebted to black power and it impacts and shapes how he thinks theologically. but that's just me. >> we only have time for a couple more questions. we'll take one from this side. >> arwin smallwood. my question, there really part of what the conference is about is looking at future areas that will try to research as we move forward in terms of reexamining the past and what we're going to do in the future. so i go back to early america because i do the early american history, early period, the colonial period, the first 200 years. and want to know how you all feel about a reexamination or
the examining of early merging of native religion with african religion, specifically if we look at eastern north carolina and southeastern virginia. we've been talking about nat turner and talking about all these different events. and african-americans always claim nat turner as their own, but nat turner was of -- heritage and his great-great-granddaughter is chief the not away nation of virginia. and the -- william barber who was mentioned earlier his people from eastern north carolina and tuesd tusk aurora heritage. if you know the iroquois people -- attached to the five nations you know that shape shifting roots and herbs working up herbs is all part of their culture. what i found in my research in eastern north carolina in particular burtee county and indian woods is that earlier scholars like thomas paramore
and others mistook native religion and how african-americans had merged native religion into the baptist tradition for voodoo and for african religion when it was not true. but they didn't understand and know anything about native religion so they didn't understand where it came together. and i will wind it down because when we go to the modern period, we go to the 21st century and the 20th century and we talk about the baptist tradition in the black church, the power of women particularly in northeastern north carolina and southeastern virginia in the baptist churches, at least our tradition from that region, you cannot stay at the church if the women don't want you at the church. you have to go. again, that's iroquoisen. women select the chiefs and elect the chiefs. if they don't want the chief, the chief has to go. the preacher became in essence in many of these communities like the church. and then the last thing because it's very unique to eastern north carolina -- >> could we give them the opportunity to answer because we are running out of time. >> i have an answer for you.
the answer is you answered the question. but i think that this is a really important area, but i have a graduate student who is working on this early 20th century between chair key and african-americans and pentecostalism and they cross over musically and things that were happening. i think we need more people who work in african-american religion for early america anyway to begin with. and especially the cross between native american and african-american religion. there was a project earlier on and i'm going to forget who all was involved in that. that is probably maybe 10 or 20 years ago that some of that started happening and then it kind of fell away. so i think you're right that's a piece that we he need to do. but i think this there's alsory regional question in this, too. how what you talked about would play out very differently in louisiana and that has some kind of regional variance. i don'tography a lot in african-american religion. we need to take that into account, too. >> i apologize. we he are out of time.
but i'm sure that all of our panelists will be around the rest of the day. [ applause ] we're going to take, is it 15 or 20? a 15-minute break? we'll be back at 10:35? okay. >> this week on newsmakers, air force secretary deborah lee james. she talks about defense policy debates in congress, u.s. strategy in the south china sea, and issues affecting women in the military. "newsmakers" this sunday at 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. eastern on c-span. madam secretary, we proudly
african-american politics and cultu culture. i learned this morning that there was some confusion in the mandate to my panel, and i think that may have been the case with others, and so a number of people had prepared rather more full documents and have now geared back. and one of them was really quite wonderful. it would have been a history of internationalism in africa from the battle of auj wa to the end of apartheid and that would have been splendid. but it prompts me to say what i thought i would say about what is not on offer this morning. i thought that one of the things that we would wish to entertain
would have been actually the pan african movement, that is the seven pan african congresses under the auspices mostly in the early years of w.e. dubois but by the fifth pan african congress meeting in manchester, england be, with all of the kas cast of characters, co-matta and don't tell me i'm going to have a senior moment. and george padmore and hastings and -- of nigeria. at that point what had been a concept, an idlology, became in fact a moving phenomenon that would have political impact in the history coming of decolonization.
and of course it goes on to the sixth pan african congress which met in 1974 and then finally the last so far in uganda. those conferences first rather parochial, a few african-americans one or two ex-patriot -- in the first pan african congress -- present they expand and become truly global. and likewise, i would have thought we would have wanted to nod at -- because that is the cross pollination surely of the harlem renaissance and the seneca lease and caribbean
investigation of what is the essence of being a person and persons of color in the diaspora and under colonialism. and then just a nodding mention of the -- conference. underinvestigated still in the scholarship i think generally but that conference would have had dubois there, of course the state department had lifted his passport. but it had instead, as significantly with a different chord sounded, adam clayton powell, defending american democracy as the hope of the world and be patient, you people in the third world. so then, too, one of the most
obvious coalitions of pan africanism in an international mode and that is ghana republic itself because there was a comingling of pan african marxism a la dubois and black nationalism a la united negro improvement association. so the ensigns of garveyism and indeed the pennant itself of garveyism defined the republic of ghana with its black star flag, its uniforms, and -- deep obligation ideologically to -- and will finish his ex-patriot
life revered. but our papers here are a feast indeed. one of them beginning alphabetically carol anderson's hang your conscience on a peg the anc and the n aaacp's efforts to stop the world bank's loans to apartheid south africa 1948-1953. as we will see, we usually think of the boycott movement beginning at a later time in 1955 in london with julius and others with a mandate from la tullie to speak out against aparthe apartheid. and of course 1959 i meant to say and of course the sharpville massacre that follows as a result of the first mobilization
of concern to the south african regime. and then we're off and running to the anti-apartheid movement with disinvestment and e.r. bre. but there's another story and another chapter. and that chapter we will experience through the presentation of carol anderson. forging freedoms internationalization of african-american history, well, that's a large topic for tiffany patterson-myers' paper. what it really is, it seems to me, is that attention that we would welcome and expect to the role of women and gender in the global experience. and there we have an attention paid rather biographically to women who have not had their voices heard, though significant
they were, addy hunten, the wife of al fees hunten sr. and catherine johnson, these women who served so meaningfully to the african-american troops in france in world war i. and then fast-forward to a recuperation of an extraordinary personality vicky garvin. i had the great pleasure of meeting her, not knowing her but meeting her, when i began my academic career at the yooufrt of ghana and she was there very much a force of nature and a force of progress. more about those ladies in a moment. and then with professor morris tate cosmopolitan woman barbara savage uses the term of what is i gather an aborning biography and she calls it, it's going to be a geopolitics of a life.
and i think that is just an exquisite phrasing of a biographical project. and of course mers tate is a phenomenon, the second phd after ralph bunch at harvard in government. a woman who produced more than a half dozen books in diplomatic history. and yet who served in the most misogynist of universities except for harvard, howard. many, many years producing fine works while the chaps received the tenure and the salaries. and she writes meaningfully about these things. she played the stock market and became enormously rich at the end, and she didn't give the money to howard. she gave it to some other causes. and then james sidbury just
before god and man and here we have what i suppose is the translation of what america could have been like had those people stayed. but they chose the losing side in the american revolution and from nova scotia they are transported to sierra leone where they try to realize the dream that they could have been participants in had they stayed in colonial and post-colonial america. and i read one of his sentences which i think is so probative of his argument. it says, the xmruexclusion of t beliefs, these slaves, that a just society should be constituted -- and that the commitment should receive equal billing in fundamental law meant that the centuries-long battle to include their descendants in
the promise of american citizenship have privileged procedural inclusion over substantive justice. we have tweaked but we have not achieved the the fundamental inclusion that we have claimed was promised or could be teased out of the original founding document. and so i will try to keep time, and we are off and running with carol anderson. thank you. [ applause ] >> good morning. first i'd like to thank loni and jim for conceiving this incredible conference and giving us a space to really think through what the future of the african-american past looks
like. thank you. when the world bank began to contemplate loaning millions of dollars to apartheid south africa, the national association for the advancement of colored people worked with other organizations including the african national congress to shut off the flow of capital. now, of course we are familiar with the power of the divestment movement of the 1980s. but this was the late 1940s and early 1950s. when key elements for toppling apartheid were first developed. now, south africa brought a considerable package to the post-war world. and that was so attractive, if not downright seductive to the west. as historian james meriweather noted, "the naacp did not possess enough clout to overcome the strategic minerals and staunch anti-communism that the south africans had to offer."
now, many scholars have therefore pointed to the seeming futility of this battle. the dangers of the cold war and the heightened civil rights rewards that the truman administration dangled before the naacp as key moments in the decline of international activism for black liberals. historians have deduced that as the association turned inward the african-american response to apartheid could "only have emerged in the radical black politics of the 1940s." that, however, was not the case. the naacp understood that while the apartheid regime was a leviathan, backed by enormous resources and powerful allies, it still could be taken down. yeah, i love swag. the association had defined
itself, quote, as a david operating against a great many strongly supported loud-talking goliaths. but we never forget that the original david won. yeah. in 1949 a year after the onset of apartheid raferd logan the association's policy consultant relayed that south africa had withdrawn its application for a $100 million loan from the world bank. although logan couldn't get any details, apparently there were seismic tremors in the investment world as the nationalist party, which had openly praised adolf hitler, came to power in 1948. unsure what to make of the advent of prime minister daniel milan and the policy of aparthe apartheid, capital poured out of south africa. yet by 1950 those fears had
quelled and the world bank began eyeing pretoria as a sound, wise investment. and this is despite the fact that milan's regime passed a number of laws designed to reinforce white supremacy, strip africans, indians, and coloreds of the very limited rights that they barely possessed, and launched a pre-emptive strike to virtually annex the international territory of southwest africa, current-day namibia. nonetheless, in march 1950 the world bank's vice president at the invitation of the nationalist regime visited the union of south africa to gain firsthand information about conditions in that area. that initial assessment of the nation's economic viability required that the bank's review team ignore the brutality of apartheid and, as the state department advised its own emissaries, quote, hang your conscience on a peg when you
enter south africa. so you can really enjoy it, unquote. that suspension of reality meant that the evaluation of conditions had nothing to do with the deplorable state of human rights or the denigration of african laborers. instead the bank was drawn to the gold and the orange free state. in addition to plans to further develop power, coal, steel, and chemicals. the world bank's visit, it made clear, was to ensure "that the union's economy was to be built upon a solid basis." well, in their own way the anc and the naacp also wanted that assurance. it's just that their dechblgs of what constituted a solid basis for a strong economy and the world bank's were fundamentally different. the anc's nelson mandela did not equivocate. under the guise of development and modernization, whites in
south africa "had consolidated their power and saddled africans with the load of oppression, low wages, bad housing inadequate health facilities, native education, mass exploitation, unfixed security on land and halfhearted measures to improve the africans' living conditions. all of these were instruments and tools with which the path to african extermination was being paved." in 1950 the anc working with a number of groups in south africa therefore launched a day of protest scheduled for may day. milan's security forces answered that peaceful demand for human rights with a hail of bullets that killed at least 18 demonstrators. the response of the world bank and u.s. financiers to the blood bath was to loan south africa south africa a total of $80 million.
disgusted. walter white. executive secretary of the naacp urged the head of the world bank, eugene black, to reconsider. not one penny, white intoned, should flow into that troubled nation until south africa abandons its dangerous and vicious racist policies. black, however, countered that it was not possible to reconsider such loans. and moreover there were no legitimate grounds to even contemplate such a move. the world bank, he informed white, made its loan decisions without regard to political or non-economic influences or considerations. black then tried to assure white that it was our considered view that the projects which the bank has agreed to finance will benefit all of the south african people, regardless of color. the loan will raise the standard of living of their peoples as a
whole. this is in the land of you can't make this stuff up. white could only scoff at that assertion. certainly the president of the world bank could not be that uninformed. the grim and bloody truth of history in the union of south africa, white countered, is that the native population enjoys virtually none of the benefits of government. moreover the dangerous apartheid doctrine of the milan government will snatch away the few crumbs which have been grudgingly given to the native population. even the world bank had to recognize, white continued, that the economic aid to bolster the unashamed nazi philosophy of the present government can only strengthen it to the disadvantage of the majority population which is native. now the bank's assessment of that initial loan, in fact, was not as trouble-free and
apolitical as eugene black tried to convey. michael lejeune, assistant to the loan director and secretary of the loan committee, acknowledged years later that from the very beginning the bank recognized that apartheid and the racial tensions that came in its wake made south africa a less than ideal place to invest. he outlined the reasons. milan's regime would have to shoulder an enormous financial burden to pay for police and military forces large enough and ruthless enough to oppress more than 80% of the population. and the government's unrelenting stripping of rights from the african labor force could only ricochet and spark crippling strikes. in addition, the regime's overt white supremacy could trigger a series of trade boycotts from other nations and major corporations that would in the end strangle and destabilize the economy.
and because the south african government could not indefinitely refuse to invest in its indigenous population, the cost to finally develop the african sector of the economy would require heavy expenditure. in short, some offices at the bank were worried that south africa could not internally generate enough savings or revenue to finance the full cost of apartheid. instead of letting that structure of oppression collapse under its own weight, eugene black publicly insisted that the racially polarized nation was not only credit worthy but that in making these loans the bank was acting prudently in the interests of both the union of south africa and the members of the bank as a whole. well, at that very moment, however, the united nations had just completed a review of economic conditions in africa